But slowly the storyteller faded and fell asleep. The more sober guy beside him cautioned me not to believe anything his buddy had said because he was besoffen (drunk).
I kept asking the sober guy when and how to find Schloss Elmau. By now I figured the train would have to be stopped for me to get off because it was pitch dark outside and no lights from towns or villages illuminated the windows as we slowly chugged along. The speed had slowed considerably and the track seemed to rise as the train crawled along slower and slower. I refused to panic although I wondered if I could trust this guy.
The sober teenager said he would watch for the right station to get off. Indeed he left me to stand outside on the space between the cars to read the signs of the stops as they went by. He said he would be back as soon as he knew the next stop was mine. I should get ready when he called.
I waited. All the other passengers seemed asleep. I was alone.
Suddenly the guy watching came back hurriedly and shouted I should get ready. Was I to jump (?) I wondered. Again he was gone. I waited suitcase in hand.
Then he came back. Now, he said. I joined him on the hitch space out in the open as he pulled a rope overhead. The bell clanged and the train slowed. Finally it stopped. Out, he said. Carefully I descended the few steps to a small platform in the dark. I shouted danke (thank you), as the train started again and picked up speed. In an instant it was gone.
Now what? It was pitch dark. I just stood there. Alone. I couldn't even see the train station if there indeed was one. Where was the station sign with the name of the stop. This was the Black Forest. Should I be surprised it was dark at midnight?
But out of the gloom coming across the tracks from the other side was a small light. I assumed it was a human being walking towards me. It was. It spoke. Professor Janzen (?), it said. Yes. I said. I have a car, it said. He took my suitcase and we crossed the tracks to his car in the dark.
“How did you know,” I said.
“Professor Fischer said, if Dr. Janzen wants to be here at the start of the conference tomorrow morning, he will be on this train.”